Palm Springs Movie: With “Saturday Night Live” a romantic comedy co-starring Cristin Milioti, Andy Samberg is now the new “Palm Springs,” alum to seek movie stardom. If that career arc sounds familiar, so does this breezy “Groundhog Day”-esque idea that casts Samberg as a guy repeating the same day over and over again.
Premiering on Hulu, the movie is not bad after commanding what was allegedly a record selling at the Sundance Film Festival. However, even with the clever tweaks introduced by its sci-fi-flavored premise — referring to ‘infinite time-loop situations,’ giving it more context than the Bill Murray vehicle of 1993 — the film turns out to be a fun but thin structure, nurturing a sense of discomfort to see how and if it’s going to pay off.
Granted, there is nothing entirely new under the sun — in this case, the hot desert sun — and there is been plenty of alterations on this formula, including the “Russian Doll.” Netflix series. But even making those allowances, it is almost distracting derivative. And while its attempt-and-try-again exchanges can be very amusing, the movie feels as though it is trying to fill out even the running time of under 90 minutes.
The scene unfolds against the background of a wedding destination in the titular California locale, just the place somebody would come across a strange cave that leaves the hero in this unusual predicament. Without giving away too much, Samberg’s Nyles is not entirely alone in that, but as with all time-bending ideas, the less one knows about going in — or focusing on logistics — the better possibly.
As the bride’s sister, Sarah (Milioti, of “How I Met Your Mother” renown) displays a sense of sadness, which will be explained gradually. It being a romantic comedy, the issue of two unlikely people being given the opportunity to bond factors into the story, but not quite in the way that “Groundhog Day” marked learning to love and selflessness as the path to redemption.
After a lengthened stop on the sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Samberg (who also produced the movie, directed by Max Barbakow from the screenplay of Andy Siara) is in his element as the smart-alecky slacker who kept trying everything (suicide, fleeing, you name it) before resigning himself basically to his fate.
The film also provides a strong showcase for Milioti in what is actually the most interesting role, with the support of the ever-reliable J.K. Simmons.
In his “SNL” shorts, Samberg has always had a weird, whimsical side and that behaviour is much in evidence here, while evaluating his chops as a romantic lead. It appears to be the summer for that, what has landed on the multimedia circuit last month with Pete Davidson’s “The King of Staten Island”
In a sort of emotional stasis, caught up in hard-to-escape loops, if symbolic or literal, both films consider the possibility of personal growth for young men. The outcome has its satisfying moments with “Palm Springs,” but in the end it comes a bit too much under the heading of been there, seeing that.
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